Rolls-Royce’s upcoming SUV will apparently be codenamed Cullinan, after the Cullinan Diamond that sits proudly atop the Queen’s sceptre in the Tower of London. The SUV won’t be under lock and key, however, because the British marque has confirmed it will put the car in to production.
We’ve not seen or heard anything official beyond an open letter from CEO of Rolls-Royce, Torsten Müller-Ötvös and chairman, Peter Schwarzenbauer. The letter states “many of our discerning customers have urged us to develop this car” – which essentially means, in Russia and China – where high-net-worth individuals expect the finest transport – the roads aren’t the best quality so a higher-riding SUV solves this problem.
In lieu of any official images we’ve put our heads together (and cranked the Photoshop up to 11) to produce these pictures of what we think it’ll look like. Let us know how you think we’ve done in the comments section below.
Styling and design
Rolls-Royce has to tread lightly when it comes to its styling – take too much of a departure from your established look and your traditional customers will desert you because they expect to buy a ‘Rolls-Royce’ and everything that goes with the name. Equally, if you just rehash a design from 20 or more years ago then you’re accused of being antiquated.
We envision the Cullinan to be built on a modified version of the Ghost’s platform. That means its underpinnings will be loosely related to the BMW 7 Series but, we assume to make the change to an SUV, it might need to borrow some more rugged components from the BMW X5. This also allows Rolls-Royce to keep the Phantom platform exclusive to its flagship saloon.
Our design features traditional Rolls-Royce styling elements such as the upright grille, slim headlights from the facelifted Ghost, rear-hinged ‘suicide’ rear doors and a contrasting finish applied to the bonnet and wings. Of course, the Spirit of Ecstacy (Rolls-Royce’s iconic mascot) sits in pride of place atop the bonnet and, like all modern Rolls-Royces, can be retracted if needs be.
Our design differs from other Rolls-Royces, however, because we’ve given it the SUV treatment. That means it’s raised by up to 50mm compared to the standard Ghost – allowing the driver to cover tricky ground. Where Rolls-Royce’s saloons stick with the traditional three-box shape (bonnet, cabin, boot), our SUV uses a two-box style to accommodate the passengers and all their luggage.
Driving and engine
Rolls-Royce customers aren’t as bothered by efficiency as most buyers – they can afford not to be. All they really care about is that their car is sufficiently powerful, smooth and silent enough to reflect their lofty social standing. Whereas other carmakers are having to fit smaller engines with fewer cylinders, Rolls-Royce is expected to stick to its tried and tested 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12.
It won’t win any mpg marathons but the engine develops huge reserves of torque and is incredibly hushed on the road – exactly what Rolls-Royce customers desire. Like other Rolls-Royces, the engine will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission which, like the new Wraith, will be preloaded with information from the sat-nav so you’re always in the right gear when you need it.
In a departure from normal Rolls-Royces, the power would then be sent from the auto ‘box to a beefed-up version of the all-wheel-drive system borrowed from the BMW X5. While the Rolls-Royce won’t have the unstoppable off-road ability of a Range Rover, owners will be reassured their cars won’t let them down on the drive up to their country estates. Rolls-Royce says it wants the SUV to be “effortless to drive, everywhere”.
Rolls-Royce has announced development is continuing for the Cullinan and released the photo below. This official test mule is a means to assess different suspension systems for the upcoming model. It wears bodywork from the old Phantom to disguise the innards and the spoiler – we think – is there to simulate the extra drag of the larger body.
Price and release date
Considering the actual Cullinan SUV is shrouded in mystery, we’ve little to work with to estimate a price. Some outlets are predicting a price around £250,000 but few Rolls-Royces are sold at the standard price – almost all customers choose to personalise them. The cost of adding options, custom accessories and personalised materials could see the price shoot as high as £500,000. Of course, if you have to ask how much it is – you probably can’t afford it.
Rolls-Royce is predicting a release date in 2017 for the real SUV and, by then, it’ll have been given its full production name. How close do you think we are? Reckon we’re barking up the wrong tree or about right? Let us know in the comments section below. Don’t forget to check out our new car deals page for the latest discounts, then take a look at our car configurator to see how much you could save on your next car.